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After somewhat of a dull Saturday, Premier League Matchday 11 kicked into high gear on Sunday. Not every match was an instant classic, but there was some entertaining soccer action to be seen, as Arsenal and Leeds played an open match before the marquee matchup at Anfield.

And while it’s easy to put most of your focus on those two engagements (or, more likely, only Liverpool vs. Manchester City), there’s more than a matchday than a couple of big games. With that in mind, let’s pull out a bit further and look at the biggest winners and losers from the weekend.

Winner: Kepa Arrizabalaga

This far, Kepa’s time at Chelsea has been something of a low-light reel. After arriving for a massive sum of money, the goaltender failed to impress, made some high-profile mistakes, and lost his starting job to Edouard Mendy. Ever since Graham Potter took over at Stamford Bridge, though, the Spaniard has looked like a different player.

While he originally reclaimed the starting spot after Mendy suffered an injury, Arrizabalaga has more than earned the right to keep the number 1 shirt. Against Aston Villa, he made some excellent saves, including some daylight robbery on a Danny Ings chance that looked like a sure goal.

Beyond the personal aspect — it’s satisfying to see a real-life redemption arc unfolding — Kepa’s return to form could have real implications for Chelsea. If he’s able to steal them some points, that could be what 1) helps them develop a belief in Potter and his way of playing and 2) helps the club climb back up the table.

Loser: Arsenal

While you could argue that winning while playing poorly is a positive side, the Gunners were genuinely outplayed for the first time this season during their trip to Leeds. If not for some poor finishing from their hosts, Arsenal would have drawn, if not lost, the contest.

Although the North London club’s struggles were understandable — they played an intense match against Liverpool on Sunday, traveled into the Arctic Circle for a Europa League tie on an artificial pitch on Thursday, then headed to Elland Road on Sunday to face a team built around high pressure and turnovers — thing won’t get better immediately. Mikel Arteta and his club have three more rounds of that Thursday-Sunday slog, although it’s possible that some of the Europa matches could be dead rubbers.

It’s tough to be a loser while you’re sitting on top of the table, but the trip to Leeds will be a reminder of the scheduling challenges Arsenal are facing.

Winner: Liverpool

While Samuel Clemens didn’t actually say that rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated, Jurgen Klopp and the red side of Liverpool won’t mind. On Sunday, the Merseyside club proved it was still alive and kicking, at least at Anfield.

Manchester City and Erling Haaland have looked like unstoppable juggernauts, but things were different against Liverpool. The Reds looked more like themselves, with Andrew Robertson getting high up the pitch, Mohamed Salah lurking on the counter-attack, and the defense holding strong. There were still some of the tactical tweaks Klopp has been working on, but the intensity was back.

Beyond the obvious positives of three points, the (potential) psychological boosts are both obvious and everywhere. Joe Gomez played well, and he and Virgil van Dijk combined for a clean sheet. Salah failed to convert one glorious chance but buried the second. Klopp may have gotten a red card, but he saw his team firing and the Anfield crowd fully behind them.

Are there still some structural issues that will cause Liverpool problems? Yes. Is there still a gap between the Reds and the top of the table? Yes. Can this result be a potential game-changer, allowing the club to hit its stride? Also, and most importantly, yes.

Loser: Richarlison

To be clear, I’m not blaming the Brazilian for getting injured or anything like that. This is purely about the consequences of an unfortunate event.

During Spurs’ win over Everton, the Brazilian attacker left the pitch in pain. He was seen on crutches after the contest and has already been ruled out of Wednesday’s date with Manchester United. His trip to the World Cup could be in question, although his estimated recovery time is roughly two weeks.

The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Richarlison. Not only had he nailed down a starting spot for Tottenham with Dejan Kulusevski on the sidelines, but he seemed to have a legitimate shot at heading to Qatar as his country’s number one striker. Now, Spurs will have to make do without two of their top four attackers, and Brazil will (potentially) have to look across London and call on Gabriel Jesus.

Talk about adding insult to injury.

Winner: Arsene Wenger

While the famous Frenchman hasn’t managed a Premier League match for several years now, he still scored a victory on Sunday. With Liverpool beating Manchester City, every team has lost at least one match, meaning that Wenger and his Invincibles can remain in this history books for another season.

At a time when Arsenal finally seem to have turned things around, the day gives supporters a reminder of just how special Wenger and some of his squads were. It’s been a long journey back to even feel positive about the club again. In sports, like in life, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

Loser: VAR


What Is Offside, and Why Is It a Nightmare for VAR?

I don’t like to include officiating in these lists. It feels cheap — if I really wanted to, I could criticize calls every week — and it’s better to keep the focus on the players, managers, and clubs we all love (or love to hate). With that being said, though, there was a call that I needed to pick out.

During the Manchester United-Newcastle match, Jadon Sancho went down in the box. Was he a bit theatrical? 100%. But there was still contact from the defender. It seems like the exact situation that VAR was built for. The referee made a judgment call that was based on an incorrect assumption, and, with the benefit of replay, he’d be alerted that there was a foul.


Play went on, and the match ultimately ended 0-0. While there’s no way to know exactly what happened, we probably ran into everyone’s favorite words: “clear and obvious.”

If you take the Premier League’s 2019 explanation of the term at face value, it suggests that if the referee’s version of events isn’t materially wrong, there’s nothing the VAR can do. So, in the United situation, if the on-field call was “There was some contact, but not very much — that’s why Sancho embellished it — so no penalty,” that really can’t be changed by the current rules.

Having that precedent may seem reasonable, but it undermines the entire purpose of VAR. The technology is supposed to be a safety net, not a backup that can be brushed aside because the on-field referee said he saw what happened, even if his account is imperfect.

Admittedly, VAR worked properly in the Arsenal match, reversing a red card and a penalty (there was a potential offside ahead of Leeds’ penalty kick, though, which seemed to be in the same phase of play as the handball, though). But when we see seemingly obvious errors go unchanged, it’s hard not to let those moments overshadow the good.

Have thoughts on this topic? Keep the conversation rolling in our comments section below.Friday, October 14th